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2008年8月 2日 (土)


(Aug. 2, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

Revamped Cabinet must make tough choices

福田改造内閣 政策実現へ果断に取り組め(82日付・読売社説)

A divided Diet and a mountain of important issues, domestic and international, to be addressed means Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's new administration is sure to face a tough road ahead.


Fukuda carried out a major reshuffle of his Cabinet and executive posts of the Liberal Democratic Party on Friday. The revamped Cabinet is to be formally launched Saturday.


What will Fukuda set out to achieve with his new Cabinet lineup? We hope he will tackle pressing policy issues head on and show bold leadership when implementing policy.


Fukuda's first Cabinet, which was launched in September, was largely inherited from the Cabinet of his predecessor Shinzo Abe. Ten months or so since becoming prime minister, Fukuda has finally established his own Cabinet.


The aim of this personnel reshuffle is clear--to solidify party unity both through party and Cabinet channels with the next House of Representatives election firmly in mind, and to establish a lineup that can address important domestic and diplomatic issues.



This intention was symbolized by the appointment of Taro Aso to the LDP's No. 2 post of secretary general, a post Aso has occupied before.

After being defeated in the race for the party presidency in September, Aso distanced himself from Fukuda, taking no important post in the administration.


Fukuda picked Aso--who appears to be popular with the public--for the key LDP post in charge of election campaigning. The prime minister retained Makoto Koga as LDP Election Strategy Council chairman, tasked with actual election campaign operations.



Fukuda eyeing next election


Lower house lawmakers face a new election no later than September 2009, when their four-year term expires--unless Fukuda resigns, the party will contest the election under the new lineup.


The new Cabinet lineup features a number of picks with great experience and outstanding ability, including LDP faction leaders. As with Fukuda's first Cabinet, it can be chiefly categorized as a Cabinet of skilled technocrats.




Kaoru Yosano, who has been named state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, as well as Toshihiro Nikai, named as economy, trade and industry minister, and Okiharu Yasuoka, chosen as justice minister, each take up respective posts they have previously held.


Nobutaka Machimura remains chief cabinet secretary, the key post in the Cabinet.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura; Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe; and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Hiroya Masuda stay in the Cabinet to ensure important issues that have been inherited from the previous cabinet are addressed without interruption.



'Postal rebel' given post


Fukuda, meanwhile, notably picked Seiko Noda, who previously served as post and telecommunications minister and has been in charge of consumer affairs in the LDP, as state minister in charge of consumer affairs. Kyoko Nakayama, a special adviser to the prime minister on the abduction issue with years of experience in the matter, was chosen as state minister in charge of the abduction issue.


Noda once quit the LDP over the privatization of postal services, but later was readmitted to the party. The appointment of the "postal rebel" to the Cabinet indicates Fukuda's intention to bolster party unity as the next general election approaches.


Yosano and Bunmei Ibuki, who has been named as finance minister, both attach great importance to the reconstruction of state finances and boast policy expertise.


Discussion at the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy should now be activated, and should not skirt the issue of raising the consumption tax rate to secure revenue sources for social security policy.


The nation's economy stands at the brink of a recession due to such factors as soaring prices of oil and food products. The Cabinet must, therefore, pay close attention to the economic situation and promptly implement necessary policies.



Drastic reform of social security, tax and state finance systems to address the nation's declining birthrate and aging and shrinking population must be made without delay.


From the next fiscal year, the government and ruling parties will have to increase the portion of state financing set aside for the provision of basic pension benefits from the current level of about one-third to one-half. But discussion on how to secure revenue to implement this measure is not yet under way.


Before the end of this year, when the budget for fiscal 2009 will be compiled, the Cabinet must hammer out detailed proposals regarding the allocation of road-related tax revenues for general purposes. They have not yet tackled the LDP lawmakers with vested interests in the industry.

The government and ruling parties also are tasked with the creation of a consumer affairs agency to unify the administration of consumer affairs. The measure is in line with Fukuda's "people-oriented reform" policy.




Discussion on key budget allocations for environment and medical issues also is on the agenda.

(環境問題や医療問題に対する予算の配分についても十分検討されるべきである。 by srachai

The six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear development, as well as the abduction issue are now in a critical phase. The government must continue cooperating with the United States, which will soon see a change of leadership, to press North Korea hard to comply with the steps it must take to verify the declaration of its nuclear programs and reinvestigate the abductions of Japanese nationals.



LDP must use muscle, tact


The new Fukuda administration also bears responsibility to pass during an extraordinary Diet session in the autumn a bill to revise the new Antiterrorism Law to allow the continuation of Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling operations in the Indian Ocean.


The reshuffled Cabinet must resolve to pass bills concerning the very foundation of the nation--such as that revising the new Antiterrorism Law--by using a second vote in the lower house, employing the ruling camp's majority of more than two-thirds in the chamber. That said, it is necessary to also continue to consult with the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which holds power in the House of Councillors.



With difficult tasks in mind, LDP executives should make fresh efforts to solidify relations with New Komeito, the LDP's coalition partner.


New Komeito, which is afraid of taking risks as the lower house election draws near, seems to be trying to distance itself from Fukuda as his Cabinet approval ratings flag. The party has shown a negative stance on having a second vote in the lower house on the bill to revise the new Antiterrorism Law.


If New Komeito puts its own interests regarding the election ahead of making policy decisions, it cannot be said to be fulfilling its responsibility as part of the ruling coalition. The party also has mentioned changing the prime minister before the next lower house election. Such talk only causes division and confusion within the coalition.


The LDP and New Komeito urgently need to hold discussions on basic strategy for future administrative operations, including such matters as when to convene an extraordinary Diet session.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2008)

2008820209  読売新聞)


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